From Our Nation’s Capitol
Although neither chamber is in session this week, AKC Government Relations team continues to monitor Congress for issues of interest to dog owners. Visit our 2019 Legislation Tracking page and click on “US Fed” on the map to get the latest updates on federal bills currently being monitored by the AKC. Highlights of issues we are currently addressing on the federal level include:
U.S. Congress – The WOOF Act, H.R. 1002, seeks to prohibit a relative of a dealer, exhibitor, or licensee whose license has been revoked by the USDA from obtaining a license for the same facility and assuming operation of that enterprise. It also requires that licensees demonstrate compliance with the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) through inspections before licenses are renewed. The AKC supports these concepts. AKC GR has recommended an amendment to address several troublesome technical aspects so as to protect responsible breeders who are compliant with USDA requirements.
U.S. Congress – H.R. 2442 (the “Puppy Protection Act”) seeks to amend the AWA by establishing extensive new requirements for pet breeders who maintain more than 4 breeding animals (intact cats, dogs or other small mammals) and sell at least one animal sight unseen. Requirements include but are not limited to: completely solid flooring; mandated primary enclosure height such that a dog can stand on its hinds legs and not touch the enclosure roof; new space requirements; a prohibition on stacked enclosures; mandated feeding twice daily; continuous access to water; unrestricted access from primary enclosure to outdoor exercise yards large enough to achieve full stride during daylight hours; specific mental stimulation and socialization; annual dental exams; arbitrary prohibitions on number of litters bred; arbitrary prohibitions on breeding age. AKC GR has expressed concerns with the proposal.
U.S. Congress – H.R. 4211 would make numerous changes to the federal animal welfare act (AWA) with respect to USDA pet breeder/dealer licensing requirements. Troublesome provisions include but are not limited to: Requiring breeders to apply for new licenses on an annual basis and rendering licensees subject to a new annual pre-licensing inspection. It does not provide a grace period for license extensions if the USDA is unable to inspect in a timely manner. H.R. 4211 would also require USDA to inventory all animals on a breeder/dealers’ premises and to publish to the public all breeder inventory, inspection and violation information without redaction. It would also allow for “citizen suits” (third party cause of action) to enjoin any other person or government. It has been assigned to the House Agriculture Livestock Subcommittee.
U.S. Congress – H.R. 3164 provides appropriations for FY 2020 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and related agencies and programs. As reported out of House Appropriations, it includes new language (sec 760) that would require APHIS to restore public web access to non-redacted versions of USDA breeder inspection reports, animal inventories, and personally identifiable information including breeder addresses. Some of this information existed on the USDA website prior to 2017, but was removed, redacted and replaced to address privacy issues. AKC believes adding personal information is not necessary for assuring animal welfare. Moreover, it could dampen efforts to improve licensing compliance and the welfare oversight of animals in licensed facilities.
Additionally, the House Appropriations Committee Managers Report for HR 3164 recommends discontinuing the ability of USDA/ APHIS inspectors to provide “teachable moments” to help otherwise compliant breeder improve operations in areas of non-compliance that do not impact the health and welfare of animals. AKC believes that “teachable moments” helps build expertise among licensees while improving overall operations and improving transparency between USDA and its licensees. Discontinuing “teachable moments” will reduce transparency and opportunities for licensees to improve their operations. In the last week of October, a proposed amendment to the Senate version of the Agriculture Appropriations bill that would have included the troublesome aspects of the House version into the Senate version of the bill was defeated. House and Senate Conferees will meet soon to reconcile the two versions into a final appropriations bill. AKC will continue to advocate against the troublesome aspects of the House bill.
USDA/ APHIS Regulations Related to Breeder Licensing – On October 24, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released a notice of proposed modifications to its Animal Care Inspection Service database, along with a discussion of federal privacy laws governing use of records, and the routine use of existing records. The notice formally expands the categories of individuals who participate in activities related to the Animal Welfare Act or who are otherwise identified in AWA-related records, adds records types, and updates APHIS’ records management practices. These changes, which AKC supports, do not represent significant changes to current public reporting practices. For more information, see Privacy Concerns Prompt Federal Government Action.